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A beautiful sunflower against a blue sky
8 MIN 22 Oct
Last update: 28 Nov 2023

How to Design Your Dream West-Facing Garden

West-facing gardens are shaded in the morning and sunny in the afternoon and evening. And just look at those sunsets! How to make use of this striking garden orientation.

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A west-facing garden is typically in the shade in the morning and in full sun during the afternoon, offering the best views of the sunset. So, if you’re lucky enough to have a west-facing garden, you’ll be spoiled by the warming afternoon sun and a daily show of striking beauty in the skies. 

Table of contents:
Show all
  • What are the features of a west-facing garden?
  • How to determine your garden’s orientation
  • The hours of sunshine in a west-facing garden
  • The pros and cons of a west-facing garden
  • The perfect plants for a west-facing garden
  • Your soil type
  • Does a lawn do well in a west-facing aspect?
  • Tips for your terrace in a west-facing garden
  • Laying out your west-facing garden
  • Mulch and soil improver
  • Design your west-facing garden around nature
  • FAQs

Lucky you! 

But how do you make the most of your west-facing aspect?

This article is all about making optimal use of a west-facing garden. 

Ready? Let’s go! 

What are the features of a west-facing garden?

A west-facing garden is located on the west side of your home, which plunges your garden into shade during the day. 

The features of a west-facing garden are:

  • Morning shade vs Afternoon sun — depending on the size and height of your home, your west-facing garden is in shade or partial shade in the morning. However, you’ll get plenty of sunshine in the afternoon. And if the aspect is clear, you’ll enjoy amazing sunsets. 
  • Plant selection — if you have a west-facing garden, choose plants that prefer afternoon sun and can tolerate morning shade. Read on for a list. 
Garden doctor Louis says:
A west-facing garden is suitable for veg patches, flower beds, relaxation areas, and play areas for the kids.

How to determine your garden’s orientation

A person with a dirty hand, holding a compass in their palm
Use a handheld compass to determine your garden’s orientation. Image by dima_goroziya from Pixabay

There are several ways to determine your garden’s orientation:

  • Use a compass — stand in the middle of your garden and hold your compass horizontally, pointing the needle to the north. Or use a compass app on your phone. 
  • The sun’s movement — in the western hemisphere, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. So shade in the morning and sun in the afternoon means your garden faces west. 
  • Check your property on an online map, using the compass to establish the orientation. 

The hours of sunshine in a west-facing garden

Two men, one handing barbequed meat to the other
Enjoy afternoon and evening BBQs in your west-facing outdoor space

The sunniest of the garden orientations is south-facing, which receives full sun all morning, afternoon, and into the evening. West-facing gets less full sun, obviously. 

And while there’s a difference between the hours of sunshine the UK typically receives would be different at the northern tip of Scottland from the south coast of England, a UK garden gets an average of:

Month  Hours of sunlight
January 8.25
February 10.04
March 11.53
April 13.55
May 15.40
June 16.41
July 16.15
August 14.42
September 12.45
October 10.48
November  8.57
December 7.56
Month 
January
Hours of sunlight
8.25
Month 
February
Hours of sunlight
10.04
Month 
March
Hours of sunlight
11.53
Month 
April
Hours of sunlight
13.55
Month 
May
Hours of sunlight
15.40
Month 
June
Hours of sunlight
16.41
Month 
July
Hours of sunlight
16.15
Month 
August
Hours of sunlight
14.42
Month 
September
Hours of sunlight
12.45
Month 
October
Hours of sunlight
10.48
Month 
November 
Hours of sunlight
8.57
Month 
December
Hours of sunlight
7.56

The pros and cons of a west-facing garden

Close up of morning dew on grass.
Shady gardens maintain morning dew for longer, potentially risking fungal diseases.

If you enjoy cool shade in the mornings as you eat your breakfast on the patio and sunny afternoons as you sip a glass of something pleasant after work, then west-facing gardens are your ideal haven.  

However, that shade/light profile can restrict which plants will thrive in a west-facing garden. And because the midday to early afternoon sun is the strongest, it can get scorching for your plants. 

The perfect plants for a west-facing garden

A bee on a lavender bush
A bee on a lavender bush

Here are some plants that prefer a west-facing aspect:

  • Roses
  • Lavender
  • Sunflowers
  • Fathen
  • Yarrow
  • Hibiscus
  • Echinacea
  • Phlox
  • Ornamental Lilies
  • Lilies

These plants thrive in the afternoon sun, attracting butterflies, bees, and other beneficial wildlife into your garden. And, of course, they provide bountiful blooms throughout the summer, offering colour and texture for your west-facing outdoor space. 

Find out more about how to nurture flowering plants in your garden.

Your soil type

A handful of sandy soil
A handful of sandy soil

Of course, one of the properties of your garden that many people fail to consider is the soil type. 

For example, if your earth is sandy, it will need regular fertilising and frequent watering because sandy soil doesn’t hold moisture well. 

On the other hand, clay soil holds onto its nutrients better but is prone to flooding as it doesn’t drain well. 

Either way, you can address your soil conditions to create a supportive environment for your plants and lawn. For more information, check out our expert article on how to improve your soil’s quality.

Does a lawn do well in a west-facing aspect?

Two pictures of the same garden, one with dry grass, the other with fresh green grass
Choose the right grass type for shady areas of your garden, and you’ll enjoy beautiful grass.

Short answer: absolutely. West-facing gardens are perfect for grass plants, offering lots of morning shade and afternoon sun. 

However, you’ll need the correct type of grass plants to cope with the extremes of full sun and shade. 

So, I recommend MOOWY’s Shade and Sun grass seed for great colour, resistance, and full coverage, even by walls, underneath trees, and in weedy, wet regions of the garden.  

However, west-facing lawns may require more watering as they’re exposed to the hottest duration of the sunlight, which can dry out your grass plants more quickly. So, bear this in mind. 

Tips for your terrace in a west-facing garden

String lights in a garden decking area
Never underestimate the value of garden lighting!

A terrace or decked area sits nicely in a west-facing outdoor space because it maximises the appeal of the afternoon and evening sun. 

Here are some tips for your terrace design:

  • Sun protection — incorporate parasols, pergolas, and sun sails to create a pleasant environment out of full sun
  • Garden furniture — you can get some genuinely comfy outdoor sofas and chairs these days, so choose durable, weather- and sun-proof furniture to help you make the most of those sunny afternoons.
  • Plants — fill your terrace space with flower pots and boxes. Taller plants, such as vines, offer excellent dappled shade protection while low-growing plants provide plenty of colour and texture.
  • Evening lighting — your west-facing garden will likely remain warm in the evening, even as the sun goes down. But you can extend your evening entertainment with string lights, lanterns, and solar lights that create a cosy atmosphere. 
  • Flooring — decking can get slippery over the winter, so maintain it by sanding it down every couple of years and treating it with wood sealant/decking paint. This doesn’t stop it from being slippery, but it prevents the build-up of moss and mould, which can be hazardous and slippery. Shaded areas of the deck are more likely to develop moss or mould than sunny spots. 

Laying out your west-facing garden

Spend a week or so watching your garden at different times of the day. Can you identify the shadiest areas? Are there areas that get maximum sun? Is there boggy soil in the dark regions? 

Here are some tips to help you decide upon your layout:

Choose plants according to the daylight

Shady areas of your garden require specific plants to bring lasting colour and texture. Remember, shaded regions will likely have wetter soil, so add organic matter, such as compost, into the earth to help drainage. 

These plants are happy in the shade:

  • Coleus
  • Pansy
  • Lobelia
  • Ferns
  • Hosta
  • Alchemilla
  • Heuchera
  • Woodruff
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Forget-Me-Not
  • Asian Bleeding Heart
  • Rhodendron
  • Yew
  • Alpine Currant
  • Sedge

Find out more about these shade-loving plants in our expert article: Choose the best shade-loving plants for your garden

Sun-loving plants

It’s usually easier to find plants that thrive in full sun because most plants are relatively tolerant of direct sunlight, although some prefer shade. 

The following plants are perfect for sunny areas:

  • Lantana
  • Salvia
  • Petunia
  • Coneflower/echinacea
  • Daylily
  • Russian Sage
  • Lavender
  • Stonecrop
  • Zinia 
  • Peony 
  • Canna
  • Yarrow
  • Bougainvillea
  • Marigold
  • Blanket flowers

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Summer Flowers.

Mulch and soil improver

Sunny areas are prone to drying out quickly, so add mulch to the soil surface around the base of your plants to help retain its moisture. 

And you may need to improve your soil — sandy soil can be too light and quickly drained, while heavy soil is too water-retentive and prone to flooding. 

For sandy soil, add nutritious compounds that maintain its structure, such as homemade compost, leaf mould, or horticultural clay. 

For heavy soil, mix it with horticultural sand to lighten the texture. And aerate the soil regularly with a hollow tine aerator.

Check out our expert’s guide to improving your garden soil

Design your west-facing garden around nature

Identify sunny spots for decking areas and terraces, and make the best use of the shaded areas, filling them with plants that thrive in the shade. 

And if you’re considering renovating or refreshing your lawn, consider Shade & Sun grass seed for shade-tolerant grass that also thrives in full sun. 

MOOWY’s Shade & Sun Grass Seed
Front image of the Shade & Sun grass seed product pouch with grass seed in front of the pouch
MOOWY’s Shade & Sun Grass Seed
Shade & Sun Grass Seed
  • Ideal for shady gardens
  • Tolerant of full sun
  • Hardy, resistant, and grows quickly

FAQs

How many hours of sunshine does a west-facing garden get?

West-facing outdoor spaces get around 7.5 hours of sunlight in the depths of winter and up to 16 hours at the height of summer. The west-facing aspect is defined by shade in the morning and sunshine in the afternoon. 

How do I know if my garden is west-facing?

A west-facing garden is typically shaded in the morning and in full sun during the afternoon and early evening. And if the aspect is clear, you should see lovely sunsets. 

Which plants are suitable for west-facing gardens?

Roses, lavender, sunflowers, fatty chickens, yarrow, hibiscus, sun hat, lilies, phlox plants and decorative lilies are suitable for a garden with a west orientation.

Any questions?

I hope you’ve got all the tips you might need to make the most of a west-facing garden, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Or check out our encyclopedia of lawn care and gardening in our Help & Advice section.

Thanks for reading. And happy gardening designing!   

Louis Hooft
Founder & Lawn expert
Introducing Louis Hooft, the founder of MOOWY and your reliable expert. With a profound love for stunning lawns and extensive experience in garden maintenance, Louis is here to assist garden enthusiasts in achieving a greener and livelier outdoors than ever before. Count on Louis for invaluable tips, clever tricks, and top-notch products to make your garden flourish!
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